Reconciled by His Blood (Colossians 1:19-23)
My mom’s mother–Nannie, we called her–was one of thirteen children. One of her sisters, Gertrude, met a boy from Montana during World War II. Soon, they were married and living in Montana. While I knew the rest of Nannie’s family, I only met Gertrude once, when I was about 15. I have never met any of Gertrude’s children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. But, through Facebook, we’ve started to get to know some of them. Come to find out, Gertrude had a great-grandson, Jeremy Sandvick Monroe, who was killed by a sniper’s bullet in Iraq in 2006. That tidbit brought the war in Iraq home in a new and different way. While I never met Jeremy, he is the same number of generations removed from my great-grandparents as my own boys.
As I have done genealogy, I have found that several of my ancestors have fought in this nation’s wars. I have found ancestors who have fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, both sides of the Civil War, World War II and Korea. But, besides Jeremy, I’ve only found one relative who died in battle–a fourth great-uncle who was killed by the Yanks during the Civil War.
I’m confident that some of you have known people who have died in battle. Some of you probably went to school with folks who went to war and never came back. My dad tells of a good high school friend whose name is on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Dad even tells that this friend had high hopes of coming back to a small Indiana town and serving as a firefighter. Some of you probably had some relatives who have gone off to war and never returned.
The sad reality of war is that unless people die there cannot be peace. For example, were it not for the Third Battle of Petersburg and all the Confederate losses leading up to that, Lee would never have surrendered at Appomattox Court House. If it weren’t for the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan, that nation would likely not have surrendered for months or years. That same principle works spiritually: Without death, there can be no peace. Paul, in this morning’s text, writes about our having peace with God. The apostle teaches us: “Jesus died to reconcile you to God.”
Scripture (Colossians 1:19-23)
The fullness’ dwelling in Jesus echoes the Old Testament where the glory of God filled a place. When the ark was carried into the newly-constructed temple, the priests could not minister, “for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD” (1 Ki 8:11). The idea is really that Jesus’ body was something like the tabernacle. In the Old Testament, God’s glory dwelt in the tabernacle; in Jesus, God’s glory dwelt in bodily form. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14)–the word “dwelt” in Greek means “tabernacled.”
That Jesus was God in human form has some important implications:
- God understands what it’s like to be tempted.
- Jesus can be a sympathetic high priest.
- The One who will judge us has endured great temptation.
- God, in human form, died for us.
It also pleased God to reconcile all things to Himself through Jesus. The word “reconcile” means “bring back to a former state of harmony.” In other words, reconciliation means an end to hostility, an end to combat. In essence, “reconciliation” means “peace.”
“All things” are reconciled through Jesus. All people, all demons, even Satan himself, are reconciled to God through the cross of Christ. How can alien sinners and even Satan himself be reconciled to God? Through the cross of Jesus, God triumphs over every evil. There will be peace–God will have vanquished all His enemies. There shall be a cosmic reconciliation.
This reconciliation is costly: Peace is made through the blood of the cross.
Paul is apparently addressing Gentiles in Colosse, for he speaks of them as having been alienated.
Notice how they were alienated and enemies (aka “not reconciled”): through their thinking and through their wicked works. Filthy thinking always leads to filthy lives: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt 15:19). That’s one reason it’s so imperative that we carefully watch what we put into our minds.
Jesus reconciled us through the body of His flesh. Again, Paul presents the idea that Jesus had to die to bring about my reconciliation.
Through His death, Jesus can present me holy, blameless and above reproach before His Father. The text does not say that I am holy, blameless and above reproach–I’m anything but that. Yet, having been washed in the blood of Jesus, that is the way I appear before the throne of God. Not through my merit, but through the blood of God’s Son!
If we continue in the gospel.
The clear implication here is that we can fall from grace. That’s the teaching of Scripture. “You have fallen from grace” (Gal 5:4). Nothing theoretical about falling from grace for the Galatians; they had done so. 2 Peter 2:20-22. Therefore, Paul tells the Colossians to be “grounded and steadfast” in the faith.
“Jesus died to reconcile you to God.” Therefore, how do we live? There are two things you need to understand and two things you need to do.
What do you need to understand?
You need to understand that God is going to triumph over evil.
It’s hard to remember that when we see evil all around us. When we hear of children being gunned down in a classroom . . . When we hear of people being maimed and killed as they attempt to finish the Boston Marathon. When people wrong us . . . when our health begins to fail . . . when we face some personal struggle.
Yet, Paul here reminds us that God is going to make peace with all things. In other words, God will subdue all things. God will have the final victory. “He must reign till he has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Cor 15:25). “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev 17:14). At the end of time, all things–every evil, even Satan himself–will be crushed through the cross of Jesus Christ!
You need to understand that Jesus died for your sins.
Too often, I fear that we view Jesus’ death in a theoretical way. That is, we understand Jesus died for the world because everyone is a sinner. But, we fail to personalize that idea and understand that Jesus died for each one of us individually.
Jesus died for me because I am a sinner. Luke 22:19-20. For a moment, imagine you’re at the Last Supper. Jesus takes the elements, gives them to you, and says, “This is My body given for you,” “This is My blood, which is shed for you.” The disciples there must have understood the personal nature of Jesus’ sacrifice. Paul understood that Jesus died for his sins: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Tim 1:15).
We need to give some serious thought to our own sinfulness. What sins do you keep on committing over and over? I don’t want us wallowing in the depths of despair and self-pity and remorse. Yet, we must understand how serious our sins really are. Our sins are so serious that Jesus had to die because of them.
What do you need to do?
After you give some serious thought to our sinfulness, you need to put away sin.
In verses 22-23, Paul says that Jesus made you holy by His blood, but you need to stay that way! Reconciliation, you see, is not just the work of the Lord Jesus. We need to allow ourselves to be reconciled to God: “We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). A big part of being reconciled to God is putting away sin. When we were reconciled through the cross of Christ, we died to sin (Rom 6:1-4). Paul describes “newness of life” in Ephesians 4:22-32.
What sin do you need to put off? Get rid of it! If you need help, see me or one of the elders.
You need to stay put.
Paul says that we are holy, blameless and above reproach before God only if we continue in the faith. We can’t move from the faith of the gospel; we must stay put.
How do you stay put? Some ideas:
- You fellowship with the people of God; we assemble to exhort one another as the Judgment Day draws nigh (Heb 10:25).
- You study Scripture. “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Pet 1:3). Scripture gives us everything we need for life and godliness.
- We add the Christian graces to our lives. 2 Peter 1:5-11. Notice that if we are adding these qualities to our lives, we will never stumble.
Are you staying put? Do you need to come to Jesus?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.